Friday, December 25, 2015

Something to Consider

Ok, we know that Jesus was probably born in early January and Constantine changed the date to December 25th. We also know that the Wise Men came to a house and not the stable when Jesus was nearly two years old. By now we understand that the ‘inn’ was really the house of a relative since the word for ‘inn’ is the same as the Greek word used to identify the upper room for the last supper. These things we have often heard.

But consider this: According to the Gospel of Luke, Mary and Joseph offered pigeons or doves for their offering at the temple to declare Mary clean from the birth of a male. This was 40 days after the birth as prescribe by law. Only the poor could offer pigeons for the sacrifice. Poor people don’t own donkeys. Scripture does not mention Mary riding on a donkey when they traveled to Bethlehem for Joseph to be counted. Mary probably walked with Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem where Jesus was born. That would be a trip of 90 plus miles while she was 9 months pregnant.

But Mary didn’t have to make the trip with Joseph. Only the males were required to register. Why would she go? Could it be because the penalty for adultery in those days would be death by stoning and being pregnant and unmarried was assumed to be by adultery. If the people of Nazareth didn’t follow the adultery law, at minimum her ridicule would still be unbearable. Being a woman alone, she would receive no assistance from anyone. Since women were not able to decide things of such importance in those days, Joseph would need to have told her to come along which speaks to his love for her and faith that her pregnancy was God’s work.

Another issue, the social laws of hospitality were very strict in those days. Travelers were to be taken care of better than the family. An example of that is found in Genesis where Lott offers his virgin daughters to the mob in order to protect the visitors. These rules of conduct even stated that the owner of the house should give up his bed and comfort to provide for the guests. That being the case, what we often consider as a grumpy innkeeper, was probably a relative already sleeping outside and possibly had to give up his position in the stable to provide for Mary and Joseph.

The manger scenes of the modern Christmas displays usually show baby Jesus in a wooden feeding trough lying on a bed of hay. Most feeding troughs of that time were made of stone, which would have been cold and hard. Livestock is not known for neatness when eating. Over time the bottom of the trough would collect a layer of dust and drool. The whole area would be filthy and probably full of bugs, not to mention the aroma of livestock droppings on the floor of the shelter.

That presents a deeper, more enhanced picture of the circumstances surrounding the birth of our Lord. Humble is an understatement. When we take into consideration the people and the environment behind any Bible story and author, the whole picture becomes much more clear. Taking this in, I sit here amazed at the depth of the real story. And then I am convicted. How often do I make judgments about people or circumstances with limited knowledge of the background? Too often I suspect.

Merry Christmas to you all.


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